Monday, June 25, 2007

When I Got Doyled...(or Reviews: Take Em Or Leave Em)

A bit of 'let's all grow up' and 'in defense of' talk happening here at McGrath's abode about what's going on here at Teamakers (especially in the comments) with the deriding of critics of Canadian tv, and more specifically John Doyle's reviews. I can't speak to the borrowing of material, but as far as reviews go and Canadian TV creators and producers taking umbrage to being panned, I'll offer this anecdote.

Many years ago I co-wrote and directed my first TV movie, a family fantasy drama called Guitarman. And it came with all the the requisite Canuck was my first movie, it was the first indigenous TV movie from Saskatchewan, in fact it was essentially the first movie most any of us on the crew had done. It turned out okay but looking back I'd say it was a good high concept idea....but tentatively executed. And I recently saw a review of it on IMDB that had those words we hate to hear but hear so often: "...for a Canadian movie, it's not bad."


But that's not my point. My point is that when it went to air in its first window it was on the CBC (second window was on Superchannel, now known as Movie Central). And it got reviewed in all the major papers and media outlets. More importantly, it got a John Doyle review. I remember almost running to buy the Globe & Mail the day of its airing to see what 'he' would say. This even knowing that way back when that Doyle seemed to have a thang for knocking that which was on 'the CBC'.

He murdered it. Ripped it to pieces. Basically ended the review by calling it stupid piece of crap. Okay, maybe not those exact words but the overall gist wasn't favourable.

I remember feeling a little like I'd been hit in the gut. Because you see, I, or at least my movie, had been totally trashed by John Doyle.

But the odd thing was another part of me was saying: "Hey! I was totally trashed by John Doyle! Yes!"

Not to say it didn't sting a little, but as far as I was concerned it meant I'd arrived or was legit or something because I'd actually been reviewed. (And I will say this, at least the criticisms were based on what was on the screen...not whether or not it was Canadian.)

So what happened next? Well, I flipped open the Toronto Star and there was a glowing review for Guitarman calling it a magical family drama - 3 stars out of 4.

Lesson learned? To each their's just someones opinion, and hopefully an honest one.

Since then I've been reviewed numerous times. Some were good...others, not so much. I learned to take it all with a grain of salt and soon decided that the most important 'reviews' I got were those from Joe Viewer (not Joe Clark, Joe Viewer)...people who watched not because they had to but because they wanted to. And if those regular folk ever said they found something boring or confusing or ineffective or what have you, that's when I'd take the reaction to heart and vow to try to make it better or more entertaining next time around.

The mass viewing audience...that's your real target --- not one or two people at the papers. That being said, I'll still take someone writing intelligently and critically about the business and our shows and calling it like they see it over nobody at all...just spell my name right.

Hell, just be happy to even get means you got something made.


Joe said...

I don’t know why you’re acting like I am some kind of antithesis of the (noticeably male) Average viewer. I don’t review TV shows. I do not set myself up as a member of the kind of elite that you and McGrath do.

Callaghan said...

Reminds me of the first review that Now Magazine ever did of my band:

"Alt-country turned up too loud to hide a lack of finesse."

I was bummed for a little while until a friend of mine pointed out what a compliment it was.

So we used it as the header for our bio.

Thank you, Now Magazine, you pretentious bunch of clowns.

Diane Kristine said...

Dixon, setting himself up as the elite? I must have missed that memo, distracted by his self-deprecation and humility.

I think critics could do better at writing for the intended audience, but the positive reviews are just as much "just one person's opinion" as the negative. Will gets that, but a lot of people don't, and that's always galling to me.

Getting reviewed - positive or negative - means lots more people have now heard of your show, which is a huge achievement in this country. I just posted something where Doyle, among others, talks about the fact that critics don't have much influence over whether a show lives or, especially, dies, nor should they. Critics point people to what they think are worthy shows - in doing that, they have to point out what they think are unworthy - and the rest is up to the people.

Joe said...

“Dixon” doesn’t have to “set... himself up” as a member of an elite to be one. Read the bio on his blog, for God’s sake.

Diane Kristine said...

I was responding to your sentence "I do not set myself up as a member of the kind of elite that you and McGrath do." Maybe you meant that last word to be "are" rather than "do," but I'll challenge you on the premise that working in the Canadian TV industry makes someone "elite" (no offense, guys, but c'mon). The elite in the scenario Dixon's talking about in this post would be the critics, not the TV writers who are barely noticed publicly, and when they are, often trashed.